Nearly nine in 10 small store owners do not think a tobacco licensing scheme will reduce the size of the black market, according to a Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA) survey.

The TRA surveyed its 3,200 members for the HMRC consultation on the licensing scheme, which closes on 20 May. HMRC proposed the scheme in a bid to tackle the illicit trade.

But the TRA survey found that 87% believe the scheme would be ineffective, while the same proportion regarded the black market in tobacco as a threat to their business.

Respondents would prefer stiff penalties (83%) and more enforcement action (79%) to reduce the illicit tobacco market, while only 10% support the tobacco retailer licensing scheme.

In addition, 87% of respondents feared for the future of their shop if they lost the ability to sell tobacco, with 68% deriving more than 20% of their total revenue from the category.

One respondent wrote: “Over regulation does not help, it hinders. A reduction in legitimate suppliers due to licensing would only benefit smugglers and black market traders by increasing the size of the market available to them.”

TRA national spokesman Suleman Khonat said: “The government is putting an intolerable burden on small shop owners and our high streets are under great pressure. This survey shows that the government has just a 5% confidence rating from convenience shop owners, and trading standards have only 6% confidence.

“The TRA is calling for a pause in the flood of new regulation on our local shops until a full review of the cumulative regulatory burden has been conducted. Retailer licensing is the straw that will break the camel’s back.”